Growing the pie for all. We are not here to take a slice.
Yellow Seed works with three farm origins from Peru
“So is Yellow Seed a broker?“ I was asked last week. No, but I can understand the confusion. Yellow Seed does not plan to be a broker or play any other traditional role in the current supply chain. Rather, as a nonprofit our role is to facilitate the connection of buyers, farmers and intermediaries in order to amplify and strengthen the good work that already exists. We do so by providing the space to make people, products and resources visible so that better trade can take place.
We believe the best way to understand what a craft chocolate maker goes through to find and build a trusted relationship with a cacao farmer is to experience the process for ourselves. So Yellow Seed designed a prototype to work with new farm origins. Last summer, two members of the team, Shea and Alexis, headed down to Peru for two months in a quest to find unique and high quality beans. After visiting numerous farms, we selected three farm origins to work closely with to learn more about the process, hurdles and challenges that arise along the way. The learning has and will continue to inform the design of the website including communication pathways and informational tools that aid clarity, choice and mutual accountability.
To better understand these prototypes, this blog explores (1) What we are learning from working with Farm Origins in Peru and (2) Possible applications of this learning.
(1) Prototypes in Peru and what we are learning
For the first iteration of our website releasing to a wider audience this fall, Yellow Seed provides visibility of cacao products and farm origins. Profiles provide a way for buyers and farmers to learn about one another and users can trace products to origin to understand the interrelationships within the current supply chain. Yellow Seed is working with three Peruvian farm origins that are not currently selling to international markets to experience what it is like to introduce a newer origin to market.
Currently, we are testing the sample ordering process through service partnerships who provide quality testing and product distribution. We are recording and tracking issues that occur to inform where current challenges are in the system. We are learning that newer origins often face numerous administrative and logistical challenges that prevent samples from arriving as expected and in a timely manner. The back and forth needed to set up initial paperwork and ensure beans make it safely to port are enough to exhaust the most committed, passionate and patient small-batch maker.
To aid search and decision-making we are also exploring what criteria or indicators could be used to help buyers determine if a farm origin is a great fit for a trading relationship. During our travels to Peru, we noticed farm origins fell into three broad categories: emerging farm origins, market ready origins, and connected origins. The segmentation is based on trends from the following categories and indicators:
- General criteria: production capacity, productivity, size of farm
- Infrastructure: facilities, equipment, technology, traceability
- Communication: channels, response time
- Accessibility: location, roads
- Management and organizational structure: staff and leadership, years of experience, record keeping, partnerships
- Finances and payment: banking and credit, investment, equity and legal, payment terms
- Quality: Practices, skills and capacity, results, flavor
- Transparency: prices, wages, story
- Impact and livelihoods
By beginning to track this criteria, we are noticing trends both in how buyers select farms but also what are priority needs for farm origins to connect to market. For example, emerging farms often require more skills or financial resources while market ready farms seek visibility and market information.
(2) Possible applications of this learning
Challenges and blocks that arise in the process are potent inspiration for better design. Yellow Seed exists to listen, learn, and curiously explore all these aspects to understand how we might create tools or pathways that empower choice and voice. The following offer glimmers of what we hope to design and include in iterations ahead.
- User profiles for farmers, buyers and service intermediaries including ratings and matchmaking tools.
- Private forums or groups where members can work together and exchange information related to a common goal or challenge such as improving quality at origin.
- Guided processes to facilitate ordering and information sharing.
- Metrics and feedback dashboard to facilitate ongoing learning and decision-making.
Transparency is the first step to achieving our vision of wholeness. We believe that small matters and are curious to learn what value currently exists. What people, products and information can we start accounting for? By designing ways to make what we value visible, we trust that the right solutions will emerge. We welcome your feedback and are grateful for your continued discovery and co-creation with us. May the value we are connecting amplify your good work.
~ Good Chocolate, Good Beans, Good for People, Good for the Earth.